Date: February 5, 2009
Brian Cottam, Associate Director
Southern Utah University Office of Regional Services
CEDAR CITY — Iron Mission State Park will move closer to its goal of serving patrons through an experiential, hands‐on presentation of Cedar City and Iron County history as the museum’s $1.4 million Iron Works Homestead Expansion project inches toward reality.
When completed, the homestead project will include representations and replicas of the industrial, civic and social institutions that came to Cedar City in the 19th century as part of Brigham Young’s vision of a corridor of settlements stretching from Salt Lake City to the Pacific Ocean.
Among other developments, the Iron Works Homestead will include restoration of the Jensen Sawmill; construction of a 19th‐century iron foundry, featuring a blast furnace, water wheel, flume and a blacksmith shop; and renovation of the Hunter House, complete with authentic period furnishings.
The aim, said Iron Mission State Park Manager Todd Prince, is to expand the experiential qualities of the museum.
“A lot of museums are static; visitors look through glass cases at objects and artifacts,” Prince said. “We want to expand the experience so that it’s hands‐on, where our visitors are learning the history by actually participating. The goal is to create a living history museum.”
Prince acknowledges that most people, when they think of a “state park,” envision recreation — camping, boating, water‐skiing, etc.
However, the Utah Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks and Recreation operates seven museum‐based heritage parks that preserve and interpret the history, archeology and paleontology of the state.
Iron Mission is one of them, and Prince said the park is striving to become more of a community resource.
“We want the public school and university students to use the museum to enhance their education, and we want residents to use it to learn about the culture and history of their county,” Prince said.
“We don’t just want to be a place where you come and pay an admission fee to help us out or support the local museum,” he added. “We’re looking to serve the community; we’re looking to develop a mutually beneficial relationship so that we are valued by the community.”
To that end, Iron Mission State Park has entered into partnerships with Southern Utah University to provide service‐learning and research support as the Homestead expansion project moves through its opening phase.
Facilitated by SUU Regional Services Associate Director Brian Cottam, the university President’s Council toured the park and museum last October, and the Deans’ Council followed suit in November.
“We made a presentation to both groups using a DVD about the expansion project,” Prince said. “Then we walked around the Homestead development, discussed each component and its role in the development, and talked about opportunities to partner with SUU.”
Members of the Deans’ Council were quick to identify potential for placing students in mutually beneficial internships and service‐learning projects.
“We realize it will take some effort on both our parts, and that some of it may not happen overnight, but we’re making it happen a little at a time,” Prince said.
When SUU President Michael T. Benson learned that some of the timbers used to build Old Main were cut at the Jensen Sawmill, he authorized a small university donation to help get the sawmill restoration off the ground.
“The sawmill caught President Benson’s eye right away, and he was able to find a little money to help us get started,” Prince said. “We appreciate his support; he grasps the vision of what we are trying to accomplish.”
Work on the sawmill project will begin this summer, Prince said.
“It would be nice to finish it this year, but we have a lot of irons in the fire,” he said. “There are a number of planned development activities. That will be one of them, especially since we have some funding to begin.”
Cottam is serving as SUU Regional Services’ liaison with the park, developing cooperative partnerships between the park and the University, as well as coordinating resources.
“Working with Todd and the park staff, along with the Iron Mission Museum Foundation board of directors, is a priority for Regional Services and the University’s Outdoor Initiative,” Cottam said.
In addition to its work with Regional Services, the park has forged partnerships with the following university entities:
“With the Homestead expansion, there are numerous opportunities for our faculty and students to be involved in meaningful ways, all while meeting some of the park’s needs,” Cottam said.
Working with the university on a history project is a natural for Prince, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in anthropology at SUU before obtaining a master’s degree in archeology from the University of Utah.
Like so many SUU graduates, he returned to Cedar City at the first opportunity, which came in 1997.
“When I went to school here, I loved the area so much that when the opportunity arose to come back, I jumped at it,” he said.
IronMission_01: Branson Palmer, age 10, Cedar City, grinds corn against a rock as part of a hands‐on learning experience at Iron Mission State Park’s annual summer day camp. Iron Mission officials seek to expand the experiental qualities of the museum as part of the $1.4 million Iron Works Homestead Expansion project.
IronMission_02: Susie Prince, left, Cedar City, helps Iron Mission State Park summer day camp participants push their handcart up a hill as part of a hands‐on learning experience about pioneer life. Prince’s husband, Todd, is the park’s manager. He said he hopes to help museum patrons learn the county’s history by participating in similar activities.
PHOTO CREDIT: Iron Mission State Park